Fury over the traveler who was dragged out of his seat on a United Airlines flight on Sunday, April 9, 2017, has people pleading for passenger protection. The disturbing video, showing security physically pulling the bloodied passenger from his seat, has brought the issue to light.
The victimized passenger has been identified as 69-year-old Dr. David Dao of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. This is not the first time the need for passenger protection has been addressed. Yet, the viral video has become a sudden call for action from passengers in the United States and around the world.
United Airlines CEO Apologizes
Oscar Munoz, United Airlines CEO, offered a statement on Monday, April 10, apologizing for the upsetting event and the need to re-accommodate passengers. In a separate statement, issued to employees after the public apology, Munoz defended the company, stating he believed the employees of United Airlines followed protocol. He still offered no apology to Dao.
Once the second statement was released to the public, Munoz was criticized for his insensitivity in the handling of the event. A third statement from the CEO to United Airlines employees was issued on April 11:
Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No-one should ever be mistreated this way.
Munoz has vowed to review the policies regarding the handling of oversold flights, as well as how they work with security officials, at airports and local law enforcement.
With three so-called apologies, he is battling to save his own reputation, as well as that of United Airlines. On April 12, the CEO was interviewed by Rebecca Jarvis of ABC News. She asked him what he thought when he watched the video. Munoz commented that he felt shame, specifically stating, “This will never happen again.”
United Airlines Apologies Are Not Enough
The alarming video has brought to light the horror of overbooked flights that many airline passengers have experienced. This is not the first time that United Airlines has replied to federal regulators regarding ticketed passengers being assured seating. In September 2014, United Airlines made a promise, in a federal filing, that any passenger with a ticket will be guaranteed a seat.
Every ticket, of course, guarantees a passenger a seat on the plane, with no additional mandatory seat-assignment charges.
Obviously, United Airlines has not followed through on their promise. They seem to be hiding behind the reasoning that there are no federal rules governing airlines and overbook flights. In fact, in the fine print on United Airlines passenger tickets is a “contract of carriage” agreement. This entitles the airline to remove a paying passenger from a flight for a variety of explanations. The most current incident pleads for more oversight to protect passengers.
United Airlines Incident Resulted in Much Upset
The Chicago to Kentucky flight was clearly overbooked. United Airlines offered $400, plus a hotel stay, at the gate for one passenger to give up their seat, after passengers boarded. Once all were seated, an agent relayed the message to passengers that four would have to give up their seats to United Airlines employees, who needed to get to Louisville to make a flight connection.
Although the United Airlines offer to give up seats was raised to $800, there were no volunteers. It was at that time, a manager informed passengers the decision of which four would be removed was being decided by a computer. A couple and another person reluctantly left before Dao. When Dao was told that he must leave, he replied that he could not. The doctor had to return to treat his patients in Kentucky.
After being informed that security would be called, Dao said he was calling his lawyer. Two officers tried speaking with the doctor. Then, a third officer came aboard and physically removed Dao from his seat. Witnesses have detailed that an officer threw Dao against an armrest causing his face to be noticeably bloodied.
A video released shows the doctor screaming in anguish as he is being dragged off by his arms. His glasses are crooked, on a face covered with blood. Once off, Dao escaped security to run back onto the plane screaming in shock. At that time, a medical crew was called to help. Under the guise that crew needed to clean up the aircraft, all passengers were told to return to the gate.
Lawmakers Are Prompted by United Airlines Incident to Ask for Policy Changes
The incident has lawmakers taking notice and now, demanding specifications to protect paying airline customers. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill, a member of the House Transportation Committee Aviation Subcommittee, responded to the event. He said that it may take an act of Congress to ensure that a passenger will never be dragged off a United Airlines, or another carrier flight, ever again.
Lipinski and Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill, wrote to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on April 11, to specifically address the issue. They stated the concerns of travelers, and “how a mistake that was admittedly the airlines own doing could lead to a violent confrontation between a passenger and law enforcement.”
They requested answers, reminding Chao that the reauthorization of Federal Aviation policy will soon be taken on by Congress. The representatives are seeking to clarify the occurrence to prevent comparable events from ever happening again.
In response to the incident, 21 Democratic senators communicated in a letter to Munoz that they plan to examine the specific episode. Questions to the United Airlines CEO included specific details surrounding the issue.
Among the queries was the pointed question about policy, utilizing “taxpayer-funded law enforcement to forcibly remove paying passengers for non-security reasons.” The senators also want to confirm the flight was oversold, before the four United Airlines personnel were provided seats. Another question asked; Why were the passengers only offered $800 for their seats, when they could have been offered the full amount of $1350?
United Airlines controls 70 percent of incoming and outgoing flights at Newark Liberty International Airport. Therefore, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is seeking a ban on bumping passengers, describing it as an “abusive practice.” Christie sent a letter to Chao asking for the Trump administration “to stand up for our traveling Americans.”
The flight was two hours late for arrival at the Kentucky destination. United Airlines clearly caused much upset and hurt. Not only was Dao physically and mentally abused, with the late arrival, the four crew members, who bumped passengers, most likely did not make their connecting flight. Certainly, the United Airlines incident pleads for more protection for paying air travelers.
Opinion News by Carol Ruth Weber
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Courier-Journal: Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville
ABC: United Airlines CEO issues third apology over passenger removal after stock price tumbles
ABC News: United CEO Oscar Munoz felt ‘shame’ to see passenger dragged off flight
International Business Times: United Airlines Promised Federal Regulators That All Ticketed Passengers Are Guaranteed Seats
BEFORE THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON, D.C.: Transparency of Airline Ancillary Fees and Other Consumer Protection Issues; Proposed Rule – COMMENTS OF UNITED AIRLINES, INC.
Chicago Sun-Times: Lawmakers in Chicago, Washington jump on United after incident
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